It’s a bit early in the season for a “race against time” episode of Silicon Valley — they’re usually saved for the season finale. “Hooli Smokes!” fits the bill, though, adding a literal race to the proceedings. The Hooli Cares triathlon attracts some of the Valley’s best athletes, but is usually won by Gavin Belson. Gavin must have seen those Looney Tunes cartoons in which Cecil Turtle cheats Bugs Bunny out of victory, because he’s not above rigging the race. But if Gavin is Cecil, then Richard Hendricks must be Bugs. Granted, he’s not running the triathlon, but he is racing against Gavin in a more compelling competition.
Before Richard can hit the road, he has to explain to Dinesh, Gilfoyle, and Monica why he turned down Maximo’s billion-dollar offer. “He was a bad man,” explains Richard. “You can’t put a price tag on ethics.” “But you just did,” counters Gilfoyle. “One billion dollars.” Dinesh reminds Richard that he turned down Gavin Belson’s original $10 million offer for Pied Piper 1.0. “Did that start some sick addiction to turning down money?” asks Dinesh angrily.
During his rant, Dinesh calculates that his 2.5 percent stake in Pied Piper would have netted him $25 million of that billion. His math is off; remember Maximo’s offer was for only 10 percent of the company. “Not to split hairs,” says Richard, “but you’d actually have $250 million.” You can imagine how comforting that is to everyone in the room. More calculations ensue, most of which are figured out by Monica without the use of a calculator. One billion dollars in the bank at an interest rate of 3.65 percent would eventually amount to $69 a minute. Richard takes issue with the interest calculation, stating that his decision is only costing them just over $2 a minute.
During this math contest, Richard receives a scary phone call from Maximo. “Remember when I told you bad things would happen if you did not take my money?” he asks. That bad thing is Colin taking Maximo’s money and leaving Pied Piper to partner with Professional Badass Laurie Bream’s Yao Net USA. You may recall that Laurie fired Colin in “Fifty-One Percent,” but a billion bucks mends a lot of fences. Making matters worse, Maximo has bought all the Pied Piper stock owned by Big Head’s Dad and now owns 30 percent of Pied Piper without having to pay Richard one thin dime. This sets up a major Catch-22: If Pied Piper sells any of its stock to stay solvent, Maximo will buy it up. He can wind up owning all of Pied Piper for virtually peanuts.
Upon hearing this, Richard does what you’d expect him to do: He pukes all over the office glass wall. He also attempts to punch another office wall and misses by a mile. This is a mirror image of Gavin’s wall-punching last week. Richard later runs into Gavin on a park bench, where they briefly discuss Jared’s exodus from Pied Piper to “a sexy start-up” run by Gwart. “Isn’t it ironic,” says Gavin. “That’s exactly what happened when he ditched me for you.”
The two commiserate over their respective fates before Richard has an epiphany: If he buys Foxhole from Gavin, that transfers the CFIUS restriction of a foreign entity owning it to Pied Piper. That restriction would force Maximo to sell his shares, and would also free Gavin up to move Hooli to whatever cheap overseas hellhole he desires. It’s a win-win for both of them, but whenever Silicon Valley has these Gavin-Richard bonding sessions, they always play out like the old fable about the frog and the scorpion. Richard is obviously the frog, and Gavin stings once again, rejecting the deal because he’s this show’s Master of Pettiness. Unbeknownst to him, he’s about to lose his crown.
Gavin’s spiteful actions will bring a hostile ally back to Richard’s fold. After Jared unsuccessfully tries to have himself arrested for assaulting Richard, Jian-Yang worries that the cops will return to bust whatever illegal activity he’s doing at Hacker Hostel. “We need to get rid of Gwart, which will get rid of Jared” he tells Big Head. Luckily, Gavin offers to take her off his hands, then shuts her startup down. He makes sure to inform Jared that Richard was the one who told him about Gwart’s company.
Meanwhile, Dinesh whines to Gilfoyle about his finances. “I should be a golden millionaire,” he says, which sounds like a rich guy into golden showers, but it’s actually someone whose number of millions matches their age. Gilfoyle brings up karma, a concept I would have expected him to reject. But he has a great explanation, made greater by Martin Starr’s droll, matter-of-fact delivery: “In my youth, I would have argued that life is just a series of random events devoid of any meaning. But as a data scientist, I have to recognize that sometimes patters emerge. Undeniable patterns.”
“I’m a nice guy!” argues Dinesh. Had Gilfoyle worshipped God instead of Satan, he would have ducked out of the way to avoid getting hit by the lightning bolt meant for lying-ass Dinesh. Instead, karma does Gilfoyle a solid when Dinesh’s cousin shows up to discuss some shares of stock Dinesh used to own. The cousin kept his stock while Dinesh sold his in order to buy Tesla accessories so he can outdo fellow Tesla owner Danny the Code Review Guy. The universe balanced out Dinesh’s sheer pettiness by having his cousin make $60 million dollars off the same stock.
The cousin then tells another story from their childhood where Dinesh’s foul deeds led to a windfall for the people he committed them against. While Gilfoyle smirks with satisfaction, Dinesh questions if karma has his number. At the same time, he can’t stop seething with jealousy at his cousin’s good fortune. Don’t worry, he’ll come up with an evil plan of revenge.
A chastened Richard visits dude-bro lawyer Ron LaFlamme, who makes a warped Thelma & Louise analogy to convince him to sell Pied Piper to Maximo. Richard stands on principle over profit, but he’s only thinking of himself. “You wanna go over the cliff, that’s fine,” says Ron, “But remember you have 500 people in the trunk who will burst into flames with you. And for what? Computers?” Just when Richard is convinced to sell, that aforementioned hostile ally shows up with a plan.
Jared has now morphed into his douchey Ed Chambers alter ego from “The Patent Troll”. He wants revenge on Gavin for shutting down Gwart’s business, and he knows that Hooli is affordably priced on the market. “If Gavin won’t sell us Foxhole, we can buy Hooli,” suggests Monica. Dinesh hooks his cousin into a scam to buy enough Pied Piper stock to fund Hooli’s purchase. He risks the wrath of karma, because this deal will bankrupt his cousin.
Bernie Kopell returns as board member Lex, whom Richard calls with the deal. Lex sets up a board meeting minus Gavin, who is indisposed at Hooli Cares. The entire board immediately agrees to sell, but Gavin has two hours to dispute this sale. The triathlon won’t be over by then. Thankfully, Gavin is being tracked by Gilfoyle, who has hacked into Gavin’s Hooli watch to keep tabs on him during the triathlon.
Since Lex and the board demand physical copies of the deal to sign, the race against time is on! Can Richard get all the signatures to Lex before Gavin gets back to the office? The plan seems foolproof until you remember how Cecil Turtle cheated Bugs: He got lookalike turtles to show up at spots along the route so they’d always be in the lead. Gavin does the same thing — and he gives his doppelgänger his watch. Checking his phone, Gavin discovers Richard’s nefarious plan and rushes back to the office.
Gavin barges in and rants about all the horrible things he has done out of spite, and how Richard is no match for this level of petty. But Dinesh is! He goes through the litany of horrible things he’s done on this show, from calling the FBI on his terrifying hacker ex, Mia, to forcing his underlings to buy Teslas so he can make Danny the Coder Guy jealous. Kumail Nanjiani earns this week’s MVP for this scene, proving that his character is the undisputed champion of The Petty. Lex is so disgusted by this pissing contest that he signs his deal, handing Hooli over to Richard. Richard is the new Gavin!
In my first season-five recap, I predicted that Richard would own Hooli by the season finale. I was three episodes off, but no matter. A win is a win!